Friday, November 09, 2007

青春の殺人者/ Youth to Kill

(Movie Review)

This is another foray into old Japanese movies. I'm still doing this somewhat blind, so I rented this movie based only on the fact that it looked old, and that the DVD version included English subtitles.

The English subtitles on the DVD translate the title as "Youth to Kill", although I think a better translation might have been "The Killer Youth". Then again whoever did these subtitles obviously has better Japanese than me.

The very word "Youth" however is somewhat indicative of the time period. As in America, the baby boom generation in Japan has had a lot of media attention as they moved through the various life stages. During the mid 60s through mid 70s, there were a lot of songs and movies that invoked either the words Youth (seishun) or Young People (wakamono) in their titles. In fact as Shoko once explained to me (seemingly unaware of the irony), "If you ever hear a song using the words 'Seishun' or 'Wakamono', you know it's an old song that only old people listen to."

This movie is dated 1976, so it's coming in on the tail end of the youth movement (although I figure books and movies are always a couple years behind reality by the time they get written up and produced). It deals with a baby boomer now in his mid 20s, but who is still tormented by generational conflicts with his parents. So much so that he kills them both. (I'm not sure if the Japanese film makers were aware of Jerry Rubin's infamous admonition to "kill your parents", but this film does offer a literal interpretation of Rubin's bizarre rhetoric.).

The murders are at the beginning of the film, but through flashbacks we get more of a sense of the relationship between parents and son. Hints of the student movement, which by the 1970s had largely faded away, are also shown. In one flashback to the more turbulent student days, the son says, "Back then, Japan was a much more interesting country".
In another scene the father apologizes to the son for forbidding him from going to college. "I saw the violence on the news and I thought it would continue. I was wrong."
The demonstrations surrounding the building of Narita airport did continue well into the 70s, however, and as this movie takes place close to Narita there is one scene of a police checkpoint along the road to counter the demonstration.

The themes of generational conflict are obviously not very subtle in this movie, and in fact in one flashback we learn that the son had actually made a movie with his classmates back in high school about fighting (and killing) their parents and teachers.
And yet often the son seemed to be more of a disturbed head case then a spokesman for his generation. He's moody and he quarrels with everyone. Since most of the movie is about his mental breakdown after his crime, I suppose he can't be expected to be in excellent mental health. And yet his moody melancholiness reminded me a bit of James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause."

There's also a girlfriend. She's important to the plot because she was the cause of the quarrel that ended with the son stabbing his father. But she seems to have no other purpose in life other than to attach herself to the side of her boyfriend, take constant abuse from him, and whine continuously.
(Japanese girls tend to put up with a lot of abuse in Japanese movies. I'm not sure how much this is a reflection of real life. I know in our apartment Shoko has a very low tolerance for any of my shenanigans.)
But seriously, I don't understand why this girl didn't get lost a long time ago. Forget all the abuse, if you ever needed a sign that you should stay away from a guy, it's when he kills both his parents. I take comfort in the fact that most Japanese women I know are smarter than their cinema equivalents.

Link of the Day
Pelosi and Me: Can't the Democrats End the War By Not Bringing the Funding Bill to the Floor?

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